How I ended my most toxic friendship
I was led to my best friend in middle school, with a purple Hannah Montana guitar strapped to my back. I had decided to take a guitar class as an elective, but I was nervous and found a seat in the farthest row from the front. My shy fourteen-year-old self was horror-struck when a beautiful girl with long bronze hair sat down beside me and introduced herself. She said her name was Rebecca* and I replied with a quiet muttering that I hoped she would realize was a response. We spent the rest of the first day of class in silence, but somehow, by the end of the month we were best friends. She introduced me to her other best friend, a tall blonde with striking blue eyes named Julie.*
Julie and I grew very close — closer than Rebecca and I were. Julie and I were constantly sleeping over at each others’ houses and if I had my phone out, it was safe to assume that I was texting Julie. We started high school and Rebecca moved away, which cemented our bond.
We were fifteen and trying to figure out who we wanted to be. Julie wanted to shed her goodie goodie image and prove that she wasn’t “just another blonde prep.” She wanted to be cool, edgy, dangerous. Julie began to hang out with the “stoners” and stopped hanging out with me very soon after that.
I never really had an issue with the way that other people saw me. I experimented with my look, like everyone does, dying my hair a lot and dressing “skater” or “bohemian” when the whim hit me, but I never felt like the core of who I was changed. This only made Julie’s sudden change harder for me to understand and deal with. If both of us had been changing, it would have made the transition easier. Instead, it felt like Julie had run miles ahead of me and I couldn’t keep up.
Julie shaved half of her head, put her Jacob Black poster deep in the back of her closet, and began dressing in nothing but the latest trends from Hot Topic. Meanwhile, I was still living in jeans and floral tee shirts. Julie began ditching school, smoking, and worst of all, she stopped defending me when her new friends decided I wasn’t cool enough to hang with them.
At first, I had tried to keep the friendship alive by hanging with Julie and her new group at lunch, but they spent their lunches leaning against the brick wall beside the art class and mocking everyone that walked by. Once they got bored with that, they started teasing me. They picked at my shyness, my bad habit of stuttering and awkwardly saying the wrong thing when I got nervous, and the clothes I wore.
When Julie began to not only laugh, but add insults of her own, I knew I had to pull away. I didn’t want to hang out with someone who hurt me like that. I tried talking to her about it, but my concerns were met with anger and harsh words that culminated in a huge falling out on my birthday. Months later, we tried to patch things up but it just didn’t feel right. We had nothing in common and things just felt so awkward.
I added her back on Facebook, trying to digitally revive the relationship. I thought the virtual distance would help, but her statuses were nothing but rude comments and claims that her superior musical taste made her better than everyone else. One day, after having a long conversation with her about some issues I was going through, she posted a status about hating people who whine about their lives, referring to me and everything we had just talked about. I realized that she was, clearly, not even my friend anymore, let alone my best friend.
People are constantly changing, but especially in high school. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are and it can sometimes feel like everyone is racing around you at top speed while you’re stuck at a standstill. There’s nothing wrong with growing apart from someone. You’re a different person every year, every month, every minute and sometimes that new person you become just can’t get along with the same people the old you could.
No one should ever feel like they are worthless, and if you start to realize that your best friend, of all people, is making you feel that way, then it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself if this relationship is healthy. Ask yourself if you spend more time uncomfortable around them than you do feeling happy. If you no longer feel like you can trust them with your secrets, guilty pleasures, and insecurities, then you need to move on.
Moving on and letting go of an old friend can be terrifying and fill you with guilt, but having someone you used to care about treat you badly hurts more than the fear or guilt ever could. There’s no reason to feel guilty when you’re putting your emotional and mental health first. Outgrowing a friend is scary, and it just plain sucks, but it the only way to make it better is to surround yourself with people who care about you, that you can trust, and that you can always feel safe and at home with.
When it came down to it, cutting Julie out of my life was insanely easy. I deleted her off of Facebook and haven’t received a text, message, or Instagram like since. I felt better than I could have ever imagined. I thought I would be sad afterward, but I held on so long that there was nothing left but annoyance. Not annoyance at Julie, but annoyance at myself for letting someone treat me that way.
After my friend breakup, all of my other relationships just got stronger. I surrounded myself with people who had my best interests at heart. I was there for my other friends and they were there for me. Ending my toxic friendship made me more confident. I realized that I deserved better. Losing Julie helped me learn to say no and to stop setting myself on fire to warm others. I learned my worth and what I needed from my relationships. As much as losing my best friend sucked, I’m really happy that it showed me that I have the right and the power to cut toxic people out of my life. It can be really scary to lose a friend, but in the end I realized I wasn’t losing a friend. I was shedding a bully.
Zooey Norman is a nineteen-year-old english major from Vancouver who loves Netflix binges and making people feel something positive. She runs a YouTube channel and blog, “What Rhymes with Cats,” through which she tries to bring joy to her viewers and exhibits her varied interests..
(Image via Shutterstock)